• Deborah MB

"His Accidental Amish Family" arrives on wheels and from Africa

His Accidental Amish Family is a feel-good Christian romance by Rachel J. Good. It tells the story of Anna Flaud, a young Amish woman who wants to walk again after 7 years in a wheelchair; and Levi King, her Amish physiotherapist. Two people of the same faith, with parallel issues of self-worth and love for children. They meet, they think they cannot be together, they learn to overcome their issues, they have a happy ending.

As expected of this genre, the book deals with the struggle of faith, the concepts of family and gender roles, and the beauty of gentle and “clean” (no physical contact) romance. In this volume, Ms Good also addresses a range of other issues such as disability, immigrant rights, fostering, gun violence or religious conflict. They all seem to be part of the narrative, but they reveal a basic flaw in such attempts: overstretching means under-representing. Nevertheless, it is nice to be reminded that the world is not merely idyllic.

Who would enjoy this book

His Accidental Amish Family is not a book which tries to break new markets or trail blaze messages. Therefore, it has a very defined audience: readers who want a non-sexually explicit heterosexual romance, who like inspirational stories, and who read to spend a few moments of easy escape.

Interestingly, also non-believers could appreciate the volume so long they remember the characters are not in rebellion against divinity, but desiring to submit to it. In fact, it adds a tinge of voyeuristic pleasure for them, a peek into a different kind of world.

Who should give it a pass

Avoid His Accidental Amish Family if you are triggered by characters built around the whole concept of striving to be good, to overcome the obstacles and have love/God heal all wounds.

Even more so than that, this book may be a frustrating experience for people with political agendas of social change. The perpetuation of gender roles, with focus on motherhood as pivotal to female identity; the use of family separation due to immigration as a mere side story to advance the plot; the “salvation” of foreign children through adoption; or the glossing over lack of education, all could be irritating to such audiences.

Conclusions and suggestions

Rachel J. Good is an author who has followed and produced variations of this theme in many titles. This expertise is clearly reflected in how easily she presents her characters, and how the details of their lives are shown without focusing on them. There is no drive for justification, no need for explanations, just exposition.

On the other hand, that expertise makes His Accidental Amish Family somewhat dull. It is as predictable as the humdrum of daily life. The only elements of surprise are the ones introduced to further the plot (the brother with brain damage, the refugee children, even the main character’s paralysis), mostly because one does not expect to find them connected to Amish life. It would have been nice if they were not so clearly simple elements to serve the plot, as they are very interesting concepts to explore in the context. Sadly, as I mentioned above they are not used to their fullest potential.

One can learn much from Ms Good about how to produce a romance without relying on sex scenes. Her work is also a testament to the enjoyment of simplicity, and how people get drawn to the Amish charm. Additionally, one can also learn to avoid a few issues when writing:

- Romance and lust are connected, but not essential to each other. Build enough unresolved sexual tension with glances and willing avoidance of touch, and you have a strong pull without having to show.

- Big subjects require that they be dealt with in detail. A social issue, such as international adoption, has many aspects which we instinctively expect to accompany it: psychological issues, economic issues, legal issues, cultural issues, assimilation issues, identity exploration issues… Don’t just use them as props unless you are OK coming through like a politician kissing babies.

- Readers are smart. If the character has an issue, such as low self-esteem because of a physical disability, readers only need to be reminded a couple of times in the book, rather than a couple of times in each chapter. These instances are best connected to pivotal moments in the story. Otherwise, at some point, the character stops getting empathy, becoming a whiner instead.

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